|AMX MVP 7500 Touch Screen Remote|
|Home Theater Remotes & System Control Remotes & System Control|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Wednesday, 01 December 2004|
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There comes a time in every man’s life when he completely loses control. It happened to me at the early age of 30 and it was nothing short of embarrassing. Despite being fortunate enough to have a rack full of the coolest audio/video gear in the world, I could no longer effectively manage the operation of my system. I had 11 – count ‘em – 11 remote controls for everything from my projector to my SACD player to my VCR to my HDTV tuner to my TiVo and so on. The process of watching a movie or even listening to music had become a pathetic display of flailing remotes, missed commands and overall system failure. Something had to be done.
The solution was to invest in a big-time remote control system. The two most prominent players in the market are AMX and Crestron. I chose AMX for a number of reasons, including the fact that they offered a better size-of-screen-to-price proposition at the time. I also liked their hardware a bit better in terms of physicality. While there are some philosophical and technical differences between the two brands, both are excellent. What makes one remote system vastly different than another is programming, a topic I will discuss at length later.
The idea of a desirable large-scale remote system includes a nice big touch screen remote. I opted for an AMX MVP 7500 with the kickstand option, which retails for about $3,200. In addition to that, one needs a control unit for hardwiring the system. In my case, this was an AMX NI3000, which retails for about $2,500. Power supplies for the control unit and the remote itself are additional, as is a wireless network from a player like Linksys for under $100. There are all sorts of options you can add to such a system, including a docking base for recharging that has a keyboard for Internet access. As my system is configured, it cost about $6,000 in raw parts.
When considering an upgrade from a universal remote or no remote system at all, the idea of a control unit like the NI3000 might seem excessive. However, it is this hub that affords you the system stability that you and your system engineer are seeking. Most of the best components today can be controlled via RS232 connections. This method of wiring a system is similar to how you might connect a video monitor, complete with hard wire connections that screw into place. It is very stable. Unfortunately, not all components even today have RS232 connection ports; therefore, the need for IR controls is still a reality. My VCR, my high-definition TiVo and my SACD player have IR emitters glued to their fronts, which are then connected to the back of the NI3000. While it is no fault of the AMX system, these less than perfect connections using IR emitters have already failed a number of times. In the future, all components will connect in a way that is physically and electronically stable. Until then, IR is a necessary evil, but when these are installed well, there shouldn’t be too much trouble. In my system, where review gear comes in and out pretty frequently, things are always under construction, a situation that is tough on those little wires sometimes.
Touch Screen Remotes
The star of the show is the AMX MVP 7500 7.5-inch LCD touch screen remote. It is built very solidly and requires two hands for use. It can be operated as a main system remote or can be installed seamlessly into a wall for comprehensive whole-home control of an incredible list of convergent technology. The MVP 7500 talks with the control system via wireless 802.11B wireless Internet connectivity. As mentioned earlier, the MVP 7500 can be docked into a station (retail price $2,400) that allows Internet access from your wireless network on your screen or in your theater. I have an Apple iMac right around the corner from my theater, so the additional expense wasn’t worth it for me. However, the base is a more efficient way to dock the MVP 7500 for recharging than my cell phone-like power supply for my touch screen.
The AMX MVP 7500 boasts AMX’s G4 graphics engine for pretty sophisticated images, graphics and animation that can spin, morph or flip with the help of a clever programmer. The screen is a 640x480 pixel resolution touch screen LCD unit that has a 20:1 contrast ratio. While 20:1 might not be state of the art for a $30,000 projector, the image on the AMX VP 7500 looks strikingly bright and resolute in your hands or resting on a table. The MVP 7500 has anti-glare features to make it work fantastically in a well-lit room, as well as in a darkened dedicated theater room. There are a number of hard buttons on the AMX MVP 7500, including four vertically integrated buttons on the left side of the remote and a square button similar to what you might see on a satellite or cable remote located on the right side of the remote. The exact programming of these buttons can be configured to your tastes. I specified the top two buttons on the left to always be volume and the bottom two buttons to always be lights up and down for my Lutron Grafik Eye controller. The hard button on the right is synched to my DirecTV HD TiVo, but those features are also on my screen for that source and I find myself using the onscreen buttons more often for the TiVo. However, I use the hard buttons for volume almost exclusively.